don't have many clear memories of my abuse, do I have to remember
everything in order to heal?
This is something I struggled with, too. I've
always had a lot of big gaps in my memories, and what memories I
had were partial. I've had family members talk about things that
happened to me and I've even accused them of lying at times
because the memory is simply not there for me. I really thought
that in order to heal, I'd have to remember at least more than
what I did. But what I saw and learned through my own experience
is that I didn't have to remember in order to heal.
I know some survivors who only have a 'feeling'
they were abused with maybe some flashbacks. Some just have the
symptoms but no memory of abuse, and maybe some gaps in their
childhood. Others remember everything and always have. Others
began having memories return, usually precipitated by some major
event like the death of their abuser or being raped, having a
baby, or their own child reaching the age at which their own abuse
began. Some knew on an unconscious level, but it didn't reach
their consciousness until their own child was abused. Some
continued having memories return for a year or more, the worst
being the last memory to return. Our stories and experiences are
many, but we shared one thing in common. We all had many of the
same symptoms or problems in our life, and we could all face those
problems and begin the work of changing and healing.
What seems to me now to be most important is
being aware of those areas we are not functioning in a healthy way
and to making every effort to change those areas so that we become
all we can be and were meant to be.
The symptoms and after-effects of being a victim
of childhood sexual abuse can paralyze us emotionally. We may be
plagued with phobias, addictions, inability to trust, or we may be
promiscuous and/or fear and run from an ongoing sexual intimacy
with our partner. Our spiritual lives may feel empty and dry no
matter what we do to change it. We may seem angry at the whole
world, or never able to feel or express anger. There are many ways
abuse affects our lives, and becoming aware of the way it affected
mine was the first step toward recovery. Once we are aware, then
we can get help to gain the tools or skills we need to change and
become healthy individuals, free of all those symptoms and
If you aren't aware of how abuse has affected
your life, you can look at the Symptoms and After-Effects page on
this site. I would suggest you rate each symptom as it apples to
you. Decide which ones are most important to begin working on.
After working on these areas for awhile, rate yourself again and
see how much you have improved.